Marquette Law School Poll finds Thompson leading U.S. Senate Race

Obama ahead of Romney in latest poll

Milwaukee, Wis. – A new Marquette Law School poll finds former Governor Tommy Thompson holding an eight-point lead over Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, 49 percent to 41 percent among likely voters, in Wisconsin’s U.S. Senate race. Thompson also holds the advantage among those planning to vote in the August 14 Republican primary; 34 percent of likely primary voters said they would support him. Former Congressman Mark Neumann has 16 percent, businessman Eric Hovde has 14 percent and Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald is at 10 percent. A substantial 25 percent said that they were undecided or didn’t know whom they would support in the Republican primary.

In other matchups for the November U.S. Senate race, Baldwin and Neumann are tied at 44 percent each; Baldwin receives 45 percent support to Fitzgerald’s 39 percent; and Baldwin has a nine-point edge, 45 percent to 36 percent, over Hovde.

In the presidential race, 49 percent said they would vote for President Barack Obama, to former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney’s 43 percent. In the previous Marquette Law School Poll, conducted May 23-26, Obama led 51-43.

The poll was conducted June 13-16 by both landline and cell phone. The November matchups for likely voters have a margin of error of +/- 4.1 percentage points while the result for Republican primary voters has a margin of error of +/- 5.4 percentage points.

Candidate images

Among the entire sample of registered voters, Thompson is best known, with 84 percent name recognition. He is viewed favorably by 48 percent and unfavorably by 36 percent. Baldwin is less well known, with 57 percent name recognition, which splits 27 percent favorable to 30 percent unfavorable. Slightly less well known is Neumann, with 48 percent recognition and an evaluation of 24 percent favorable to 24 percent unfavorable. Fitzgerald is recognized by 39 percent, with 17 percent favorable to 22 percent unfavorable. Hovde remains the least recognized, with 27 percent able to give an opinion about him, dividing 14 percent favorable to 13 percent unfavorable.

Marquette Law School Poll Director Charles Franklin noted, “The gubernatorial recall election dominated the attention of Wisconsin voters, resulting in less awareness of and knowledge about most of the U.S. Senate candidates at this point. As the campaign approaches the August 14 primary, we would expect to see substantial gains in voters’ knowledge of all the candidates.”

The images of the Republican candidates are somewhat different among likely GOP primary voters. Thompson has 60 percent favorable to 27 percent unfavorable ratings among these voters, with just 13 percent unable to give a rating. Neumann is rated favorably by 38 percent and unfavorably by 18 percent, with 44 percent unable to rate him. Fitzgerald has a 30 percent favorable rating to 16 percent unfavorable, with 53 percent unable to rate him. Hovde is viewed favorably by 22 percent of GOP primary voters, with 11 percent unfavorable and 67 percent unable to rate him.

There is no contested Democratic primary for comparison, but among likely voters who are Democrats or independents who lean towards the Democratic party, Baldwin is viewed favorably by 54 percent and unfavorably by 8 percent, with 38 percent unable to give an impression.

Presidential race

President Obama’s job approval rating stands at 52 percent approve and 43 percent disapprove, unchanged since the previous poll May 23-26. Fifty-three percent say they have a favorable opinion of Obama while 39 percent say unfavorable. Governor Romney’s favorable rating stands at 35 percent with 43 percent unfavorable. In the late May poll Obama’s favorable rating was 55 percent with 41 percent unfavorable while Romney was viewed favorably by 40 percent and unfavorably by 47 percent. The June poll was completed prior to Romney’s visit to Janesville on June 18.

Republicans somewhat more engaged

In the aftermath of the recalls, Republicans remain a bit more enthusiastic about voting. Ninety-three percent of Republicans said they were certain to vote in November, compared to 85 percent of Democrats and 78 percent of independents. Among all registered voters, Democrats make up 30 percent to 27 percent for Republicans, but among likely voters that three-percentage-point Democratic advantage shrinks to just one point, with 31 percent Democratic and 30 percent Republican among likely voters.

Opinion of recalls

Wisconsin voters have shifted their opinion of recalls since January. Then 43 percent said they would like to see recalls “only in cases of criminal wrongdoing,” while 53 percent favored keeping the current rules “with no such restrictions.” In the new June poll, those numbers have reversed, with 50 percent now wishing to limit recalls to cases involving criminal wrongdoing while 44 percent wish to keep the current law.

Governor Scott Walker received the votes of 70 percent of those wishing to limit recalls, while Mayor Tom Barrett was supported by 61 percent of those wishing to keep the recalls without restrictions. The possible impact of views of the recall process is more clearly seen among those who might be expected to vote against Walker. Among those who disapprove of the job Walker is doing as governor, and therefore might be expected to vote against him, Walker received 4 percent of the vote among those who favor the current recall law but 8 percent among those who want to see the law limited. A larger effect appears in the decision to vote at all. Among those disapproving of Walker yet preferring limits on the recall, 26 percent did not vote, whereas 13 percent did not vote among those disapproving of Walker while supporting the current law.

Partisan cooperation

An overwhelming 84 percent of registered voters say they would like to see more cooperation between the parties, with just 11 percent saying it is better for the parties to stand for different things even if that prevents cooperation. But asked if they think cooperation between the parties is possible or if the differences are too great for cooperation, just over half (55 percent) thought cooperation was possible while 41 percent thought party differences are too great. Republicans were a bit more optimistic about cooperation, with 61 percent saying that it is possible, while 58 percent of independents and 48 percent of Democrats said the same. Interestingly, reminding poll respondents that both Walker and Barrett had called for cooperation in their election night speeches had no statistically significant effect on views of cooperation.

U.S. Supreme Court and health care reform

Wisconsin voters express limited approval of the job the U.S. Supreme Court is doing, with 46 percent approving and 35 percent disapproving, a result in line with recent national polls. With the Supreme Court likely to release its decision on health care reform soon, Wisconsin voters are divided in their opinion of the law. Thirty-three percent would like to see the Court keep the entire law intact, while 19 percent favor overturning only the part of the law that requires individuals to purchase insurance and 38 percent hope to see the Court overturn the entire law.

About the Marquette Law School Poll

The Marquette Law School Poll is the most extensive independent statewide polling project in Wisconsin history. Running monthly through the 2012 election, it provides a snapshot of voter attitudes from across the state on the gubernatorial recall election and the campaigns for president and U.S. Senate, in addition to gauging opinion on major policy questions.

The results of today’s poll were discussed at “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” at Marquette Law School. Similar poll release events will be held at Marquette Law School throughout the year.

The poll interviewed 707 registered Wisconsin voters by both landline and cell phone June 13-16, 2012. The margin of error is +/- 3.8 percentage points for the full sample. There are 594 “likely voters,” those who said they were certain to vote in the November elections, with a margin of error of +/- 4.1 percentage points. For the August Republican primary there are 344 likely voters with a margin of error of +/-5.4 percentage points. The entire questionnaire, full results and breakdowns by demographic groups are available at